The famous Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England, as imagined in a 1:50 scale model made by landscape architect Sarah Ewbanks.

Architect presents radical new theory that Stonehenge was a two-storey, wooden feasting and performance hall


Could the prehistoric Stonehenge megaliths once have been the support for a wooden, two-storey roundhouse, a venue for feasting, speakers and musicians? That’s the theory of an English landscape architect who designed a small model of what she has in mind and is looking for money to build a 1:10 scale model of the structure.

Sarah Ewbank says the fact she is not an archaeologist has freed her from preconceived notions and allowed her to approach the matter in a fresh way.

Ms Ewbank told Ancient Origins via email about her vision of Stonehenge:

“I believe Stonehenge was a Bronze-age venue, a large oval hall encircled and overlooked by galleries. Interestingly the upper level was tiered, the height of different sections reflecting the different height trilithons.  Consider both hall and galleries filled, listening to a speaker, or maybe there was feasting on the galleries with dancing below, perhaps crowds gathered to listen to singing or musicians playing, or maybe ceremonies took place to welcome in the solstices. It all sounds rather splendid and certainly needed – there were no electronic gadgets then!



My view – such a splendid building deserved to be used often – so, much as the Albert Hall in London serves to accommodate every type of gathering, so I believe our Bronze-age ancestors used Stonehenge whenever such a venue was required. Our bronze-age ancestors were intelligent people with needs similar to ours today. Forget the furry loin cloth and ritual sacrifice stuff - it's wrong.”

She said she’s discussed her theories with other experts. Some of them agree with her interpretation of the building’s use, but others strongly disagree and argue for the traditional view.

The way the monument looks today.

The way the monument looks today .  Howard Ignatius/ Flickr

Ms. Ewbank speculates that the sides of the house were made of oak and the roof of thatching. Of course, it is highly unlikely wood or straw would survive the thousands of years of Stonehenge’s existence, so finding physical evidence for her theory—other than the layout of the stones themselves—is next to impossible.

In fact, she says on her website people have asked her if there is evidence of a roof. She points out that 500-year-old abbeys have roofs missing. “So don’t expect to find the timber structure lying around after 4,000 years,” she said.

“When you look at it the whole thing it fits absolutely perfectly,” she’s quoted as saying in SalisburyJournal. “I haven’t had to push one stone out of place. I have just taken all the standing stones and it all fits.”

Ms. Ewbank’s model without the roofing

Ms. Ewbank’s model without the roofing ( Photo copyright Sarah Ewbank )

She lists several reasons on her website for theorizing the monument was a roundhouse, including:

  • One of the stones is called the “lintel stone,” apparently for an important reason.
  • The blue-stones have grooves in them for structural purpose.
  • The trilithons are spaced just right to support four large trusses. The height difference between the trilithons allowed raising of the trusses.

Ms. Ewbanks writes on her blog:

To form the large trusses, only eight 15-baunt (16-metre) oak timbers with angled profile are required. Bronze-age oaks were very likely bigger and better than those available today. Apparently ship-building in past-times robbed the UK of the good-sized oaks! Before discounting this idea ask yourself, ‘If Bronze-age people are capable of quarrying, moving and shaping stones that weigh 20 to 50 tonnes, can they fell and oak and shape the timber to form a roof?’ The answer can only be yes.

She told SalisburyJournal:

“Archaeologists are very obsessed with dating and the meaning of it. I looked at it and thought it was a ruin, and that with my design skills I could work out what was there. In our climate back in the Bronze Age it still rained, and why would you move 75 large stones just so you could dance around twice a year? If you put a roof on it you can use it all year.”

And those ancient people apparently moved those stones quite a distance. Archaeologists announced in December 2015 that they found the exact holes in a rocky outcrop in Wales from where the bluestones found at Stonehenge originated, revealing that they were quarried 500 years before they were assembled into the famous stone circle that still stands today in Wiltshire, England. The dramatic discovery suggests that some of the stones making up the ancient monument was first erected as a structure in Wales and later dismantled, transported, and reassembled over 140 miles away in Salisbury Plain.

Computer rendering of the overall site of Stonehenge and surrounds.

Computer rendering of the overall site of Stonehenge and surrounds. Public Domain

The Guardian reports that the finding was made during a project run by the University College London (UCL), in cooperation with the universities of Manchester, Bournemouth and Southampton, among others, to investigate quarries in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

It has long been known that the bluestones – a term used in a loose sense to cover all of the ‘foreign’ stones which are not native to Salisbury Plain – originated in southwest Wales. Their name actually refers to the spotted dolerite, an igneous rock that looks blue when broken and is spotted with small pellets of feldspar and other minerals that got into the molten matrix when the rocks were forming geological ages ago. Nearly a century ago, in 1923, the eminent petrographer, Herbert Thomas, was able to identify their source as the Preseli hills .

Another scholar, Julian Spalding, theorized recently that the Stonehenge we know today may have been merely the support for a series of elevated wooden platforms. These platforms could have been used for spiritual ceremonies, elevating religious leaders off the ground - bringing humans closer to the heavens and the gods.

Art critic, historian and former curator Spalding said to The Guardian : “In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be. The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.”

No physical evidence has been found to back up the historian’s claim.

The exact purpose of Stonehenge is not known, but some researchers believe it was built as an ancient calendar to mark seasons and the movements of the sun and moon. Others say it was a place of healing, or dying, or perhaps a place of worship.

Featured Image:  The famous Stonehenge monument in Wiltshire, England, as imagined in a 1:50 scale model made by landscape architect Sarah Ewbanks. ( Image copyrighted by Sarah Ewbanks )

By Mark Miller


Colin Berry's picture

After some reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that what's preventing appreciation of the true role of Stonehenge and other similar sites with standing stones, from Ireland to Korea, is terminology, probably the Americas too. Folk don’t like to hear about “sky burial”, much less excarnation. As for “ritual defleshing” one is simply asking for trouble…

Let’s change the terminology. Let’s refer to “skeletonization” stressing that it’s not so different from modern day cremation if one focuses on the end-product, a relatively inoffensive end product (sterile bones) and less on the means by which it was obtained…

Our Neolithic ancestors used appropriate technology, given it was an era of human history that lacked metal tools for digging graves or cutting firewood for funeral pyres… Let’s stop portraying them as primitives. Technologically backward maybe, but not primitives...





Colin Berry's picture

“Our bronze-age ancestors were intelligent people with needs similar to ours today. Forget the furry loin cloth and ritual sacrifice stuff - it's wrong.”

But it wasn’t Bronze Age. Stonehenge is late Neolithic, still Stone Age, with copper just starting to make an appearance, but for pastoral folk at any rate, woven clothes, not fur.

Yes, they were intelligent folk, but still had practical problems that needed attending to, like how best to dispose of the dead. I have just posted my new updated theory, which views Stonehenge and other sites with standing stones as places for “sky burial”.

The upright stones, and especially level lintels of Stonehege, provided secure places on which scavenger birds – especially crows and seagulls – could perch, roost and maybe even nest. Reminder: sky burial is one of the available options that can be classified as ‘passive excarnation’ – defleshing of the dead. Simple burial would have been laborious and time-consuming on the chalk uplands of Wiltshire (deer antler picks only!) and cremation probably seen as a criminal waste of firewood, needed for cooking and keeping warm.


Barry Sears's picture

Whats the storey with the right eye? The sign of Cancer has the front path ways as the feelers and historical photos show how the eye has changed and would have been opposite the other eye. Is there any history on it’s change?

I will agree that during the harvesting season there is definate reason to celebrate. I will also agree that the stones could support weight. I do agree that cone and pyramid style structures were popular during the Neolithic period and the Bronze age. I do believe that just like the pyramids the windows and carefully placed tiles or floor markers could have shown where the sun was on the solstices. This site proves my thoughts,   …..   I believe this was an observatory. It is too bad that there is not much physical evidence.

Troy Mobley

Look at that roof! Gotta be a smurf dwelling! Sadly, also, the making of the small-scale model means that Ms Ewbanks' Jenga set is unlikely to ever work properly again.

As for music venue... the amount of effort that must have gone into shifting those huge stones would mean that the average Stone-Age pleb was about as likely to go there to enjoy a "rock" concert (sorry) as s/he would be to survive naked on Dartmoor in winter. If it was a meeting venue - an idea which is not actually without merit - only shamans and chief Smurfs would be likely to set their grubby soles down within its hallowed precincts, the latter only with permission of the former.

A conference centre for maintaining the peace between local tribes would be more my guess, with the very outer ring being a high wooden pale to keep the hoi-polloi firmly out.


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